Just like most normal people do, we bought an old school bus and renovated it into a tiny home. We had been living in Ethiopia for the last three years and felt like we needed a home to come back to when we were in the States for summers, babies, and holidays. It is awesome staying with family while in the States, but so hard not having your own place or rhythms.
So why didn’t we just build a stationary home with a normal foundation? Well, my family lives mostly on the East Coast and my husband’s family lives mostly on the West Coast and we couldn’t decide where to build it. So, it needed to be mobile, so we could move around, but that still doesn’t answer the bus question because there are a lot of mobile type homes. We talked about a tiny home on a trailer but those aren’t mobile enough for cross country road trips. An Airstream was attractive and our original idea, but Greg is pretty tall and thought the shower situation might be hard. Of course, there is always an RV, but we liked the look of the painted buses.
My husband came home one day with all the answers—“Let’s build a skoolie.”
“A what?” Is exactly what I said.
“A skoolie,” which I have come to learn is a school bus that is renovated into a tiny home.
I told my husband that I thought it was a cool idea, but in my mind, I was raging: “That is the worst idea ever.” All my husband needed was for me to say I thought it was a cool idea and he was off and running. I honestly imagined the idea would die a hard death somewhere in his research, but it didn’t.
This brilliant bus conversion idea started with us just throwing up some bunks and calling it a day, but over the next year it morphed into an actual house inside a bus. I eventually got excited and found myself bidding on government auction sites for buses, sketching drawings of our new home and dreaming about cruising around America. Once we dropped that bus off at the tiny home builders, we thought that the hard work was behind us.
WRONG! When we started building this bus-house it was intended to be a summer/holiday home of sorts when we were in America. Well, as life happens, our plans changed, and we were moving from Ethiopia and our bus was going to be our full-time place of dwelling for the foreseeable future. To make a long story short, our move from Ethiopia was super stressful and we were so excited to get settled in the bus and get some peace. WRONG AGAIN! Moving into the bus and figuring out all the systems and engine was one of the most challenging, stressful experiences in the last three years of marriage.
Here is the short list of challenges we faced in those first few weeks of the bus. Greg had to get a special license to drive the bus because of the weight. It was really hard (and still really hard) to insure the bus like we would like to. When we went to pick up the bus it wouldn’t start, and we had to drop $800 on an electrical issue before even leaving Tennessee (TN). The guy we hired to drive our bus (since Greg didn’t have his license yet) back from TN to North Carolina (NC) ran the side of our brand-new home into a rock while he was pulling it in to a drive way. We blew out the fridge the first day by wiring our hook-up wrong, and we weren’t able to get it fixed for two months (long story). Thank you to cold weather and coolers for sponsoring our food while we traveled. I pooped in the pee section of the composting toilet. Our pee container was constantly overflowing because we would forget to empty it. Our engine broke down two hours after we embarked on our cross-country trip when a fuel line busted. We slept a night on the side of the road in 25-degree weather with no heaters.
After the fuel busted, we took the bus to the Cummins Engine dealer in Nashville to get them to rework the fuel lines. We waited two days and paid them a lot of money. While sitting in their courtesy lounge with the complimentary water, we contemplated the meaning of life and seriously considered turning around, parking the bus and just flying to see friends for the holidays. I really felt like this was our story to write and we could go back or continue onward. For us it felt like a defining moment in the way we want to live our lives. We had dreamed of this trip for so long that it felt like we would be cheating ourselves by not seeing it through.
We decided to push on and agreed to not get frustrated if we broke down again or because the trip was hard, stressful, and expensive. Well, it was hard, stressful, and expensive at times. We did break down again, but we also got to see so many good friends across America AND we pushed past our fears of failure. We still failed in ways I guessed we would, but we still pressed on, and somehow there was success in the failure.
After two engine break downs, lots of cuss words, two nights in hotel rooms, four nights on the couch, two frozen engines, one epic snow storm, one stop in Las Vegas, four flights to parts of America we didn’t want to drive to in the bus, six near mental breakdowns, countless days driving, one cute (sometimes crying) baby, one crazy (sometimes annoying) dog, one wife (always stressed) and one tired (but very handsome) driver we all made it to San Diego. Then we turned around and headed back to NC. I was never so glad to see the bus pulling into the driveway in NC.
Even with all the headaches, I would do it all over again for those really good nights laughing with friends and sipping rye whiskey; for those Scrabble and “Who’s most likely to” games; for nights parked outside an old friend’s house in Arkansas and having them over for breakfast in the morning; for the time talking with Greg while he drove all day; for those seaside walks; for the joy of arriving at our destination; for Rowena’s (and Ginger’s) first bite of ice cream; for God showing up for us on the side of the road multiple times; for Rowena not caring one bit where we were (just that we were together); and for all the little moments in-between that make up our story.
I am seeing more and more the free will that we all have in writing our stories. I think we could have written a different story if we flew to see our friends and family instead of driving. Honestly, I think that story could have been just as good and meaningful as the story of driving across America. But for us, the reason we didn’t pick that story goes back to our calling, and ultimately what we want out of life. Greg and I are about the adventure of the unknown (in the context of what God is calling us to) and our marriage has been one challenging-adventure after another. We love it at times and hate it at others, but this is part of our storyline—part of the meaning that God is bringing into focus. What story is God crafting in your life? It may look different than it does for people around you. It is important to listen to that storyline, especially when you are at a crossroads—at the crossroads you have to follow your storyline and calling.